New York: American police on Tuesday erected a
security tower and stepped up surveillance around an Islamic
centre and a Hindu temple that were among four sites fire-
bombed here in arsonist attacks termed by authorities as hate
crimes and also released the sketch of a suspect.
Molotov cocktails were hurled at the four locations last
night, with bombs damaging property but no serious injuries
The attacks took place in Queens area in which
unidentified assailants threw homemade firebombs at a house
used for Hindu worship services, Islamic centre Imam Al-Khoei
Foundation, a home and a convenience store.
Police, who are yet to make any arrest, have released a
sketch of a suspect caught on a surveillance camera at the
The suspect is described as a 25-30 year old black
man, 5 feet 8 inches tall, weighing 200 pounds and wearing a
black jacket and a baseball cap.
A videotape has also been released showing a suspect
appearing suddenly to lift his right arm to hurl a lit
objective that strikes the temple and explodes in flames.
The New York Times quoted Ramesh Maharaj, 62, a Hindu
priest who resides in the temple premises, as saying that he
rushed from his bed to lawns to find the explosive burning
"The intention from the behaviour of the guy was to do
destruction," Maharaj said.
Later, the entrance to the globally prominent Imam
Al-Khoei Foundation was also hit by molotov cocktails
while 100 people were inside.
Both the local Hindu and Islamic community leaders have
said they were not afraid of such attacks.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg called the attacks
unacceptable and said authorities are investigating the
"No matter what the motivation was of the individual who
threw Molotov cocktails in Queens last night, his actions
stand in stark contrast to the New York City of today that
we`ve built together," he said in a statement.
Governor Andrew Cuomo said such attacks have no place in
"our open and inclusive society and we must do all we can to
ensure New York remains a safe and tolerant place for all."
Bloomberg said personnel from the New York Police
Department`s Hate Crimes Unit and detective squad are "moving
at full steam" to investigate and also determine if there are
any connections to incidents outside New York City.
A Fire Department official said the attacks damaged
property but no one was injured.
Police said in three of the four attacks, Molotov
cocktails were made using Starbucks bottles.
The Imam Al-Khoei Foundation has one of the most
prominent Shia mosques in New York.
Police, who are investigating the attacks as hate crime,
said callers informed them that they saw the assailants
fleeing the scenes after hurling the firebombs.
They were looking at surveillance videos obtained from
the bodega and one of the houses that were attacked.
The Islamic centre said on its website that two firebombs
were "hurled at the main entrance" but "no major damage, no
injury was caused by the blast."
It said the foundation "reiterates its resolve to
continue to serve the community and to strive to bring love
where there is hatred, light where there is darkness and
enlightenment where there is ignorance."
Maharaj was quoted as saying that he rushed from his bed
to the lawn after the attack on the temple and found a bottle
burning harmlessly. "It smelled like kerosene," he said.
He said he remained alert throughout Monday night,
adding that he would continue to conduct his prayer services
at his house.
The attacker "should try to find God and be remorseful
for what he has done," Maharaj said.
The attack on the temple has been caught on a
security camera, and police say the suspect was seen driving a
The Queens neighbourhood, where the attacks occurred
has several halal shops, Latino restaurants, Hindu temples and
storefront Christian churches.
Salem Ahmed, owner of the convenience store that was
attacked, said people get along fine in the area and there
have not been any problems over the years.
The Yemeni national said a man ran into the store and
threw a flaming bottle over the counter.
In the attack on the Al-Khoei Islamic centre, two
flaming bottles were thrown at the entrance, causing a small
fire. The leaders of the centre are mostly Iraqi immigrants
and its members Lebanese.
In another incident, a bottle containing flammable
liquid was thrown onto the porch of a house in Elmont.
Residents Bejai Rai and his wife, Hindu immigrants
from Guyana, said they heard a loud crash "as if the
chandelier had fallen down." Their sons saw a man rushing away
into a silver coloured two-door car.
Rai said it appeared that the bottle had bounced off
the house and crashed on the concrete walkway. It did not
cause any fire.
"We are terribly nervous. If they`re going to bomb a
house, to burn a house down, they want to kill us. Why would
someone want to do that to us," Rai was quoted as saying by
the New York Times.